Jordan in Okarito

by Kiwi

Chapter 14 - Mrs Dale - 2

Tyler took his coat off, spread it out on the ground and loaded her pathetic collection of groceries on to it.

"The bags are useless. We'll wrap everything up in my coat. Have you got far to go?"

"No, not far now. I live just up the road, in one of the Council Flats."

"Let's get you home then and you can sort everything out there. The eggs are a mess, and these drinks are a write-off. The bread bag has burst, but some will be saveable. Is that a word – saveable? I think it is."

"Yes," she smiled, "That's a word. Thank you, Tyler. This is so good of you."

"No worries. We can't leave you sitting here in the rain." He stood up, helped her up, and then bundled-up his coat with the groceries in it.

They walked the few meters up the road to her little house.

"You are getting so wet!" she said.

"That's okay, I'll dry out."

"That man – I think he cut my bags open. Why would he do that?"

"I don't know why, but yes, that's what he did – I saw him do it. Is there anything missing?"

"There is. My new carving knife! I've been saving coupons for it for weeks and weeks. It's gone and I didn't even get to use it. Oh, that nasty, horrible man!"

"I think you're right. We'd better keep an eye out for him, I think. Jeffrey says there's been a lot of petty thefts over the last few days. Maybe he's the one responsible."

"He could be. I will be locking everything up from now on."

"Good idea. Is this your house here?"

"This is it, my half a house. There are 6 units here, they're all little."

"Easy to keep clean then. I've just got one room, in a shed at the wharf, but it's big enough for me and all that I need."

"That's good. Very good if you're happy with what you have." She put down the packages that she was carrying, fished-out her key and opened the door. "Come along inside, Tyler. This is what I call home."

She looked at her kitchen/living room as if she was seeing it for the first time. It all looked sad and pathetic really. Not much to show for a lifetime.

Tyler kicked his shoes off, went over to the kitchen benchtop and started unloading the groceries from his coat. "Oh, wow." He wriggled his toes in his sodden socks. "I'm all wet and getting water everywhere. Sorry."

"There's no need for you to be sorry. It's more my fault than yours that you're so wet. You stay there and I'll get some towels."

He finished stacking the groceries, leaving the damaged stuff to one side. Mrs Dale spread towels over an armchair and insisted that he sit down in front of the heater.

"Sorry I can't dry your clothes. My dryer died a while ago. I need a cup of tea. Would you like one, Tyler?"

"Sounds good, thanks. A hot drink will go down well. Would you like me to go and get replacements for the broken stuff?"

"No. No thank you. I'll sort something out."

"You're sure? It's no trouble. Umm, I'm sorry, I don't know your name?"

"You don't even know my name and still you came to help me. You're a good boy, Tyler and thank you. My name is Dorothy Dale, or Dot for short."

"Mrs Dale, is it?"

"Yes it is. I was married, but I'm widowed now."

"Oh, I'm sorry."

"That's all right – not your fault," she smiled. "It was a long time ago, several years now. Tell me something about yourself. You're Kathleen Rodden's grandson?"

"One of them, yes."

She was busy in the kitchen. Tyler said, "You could sit down and I'll make the tea."

"No, you won't. You're my guest here and I'll get it. You own the canoes and rent them out to tourists on the lagoon?"

"I do, but they are kayaks, not canoes."

"Oh. I don't know the difference, but you do own them all? How did a young boy like you get in that position?"

"It's a long story. I had some money that my other grandparents left when they died. With that and a lot of help from Granddad Bob, we managed to get things started. My cousin, Cassie, helps and Bevan does too, sometimes."

"But you own it all yourself?"

"Well, yes. Oh, and we've started another venture too – taking guided tours out on a bigger boat. Cassie and Bevan's father supplied the boat and I own half of that, he's the co-owner."

"Your business seems to be going well. There are always kayaks coming and going.""

"It's doing very well, even better than I hoped for, but I couldn't do it on my own. I've had a lot of help."

"I'm sure they get paid back. So you're making a profit?"

"Yes, we're doing good, thanks. But there never seems to be enough money for all we want to do. Thank you." He took the offered cup.

"There's milk and sugar on the table. Help yourself, I don't know how you like it. So, you'll be staying in Okarito then?"

"Yes, for at least a few years. If Bevan goes to university, I'll be going with him."

"Bevan, your cousin. You must be good friends."

"Very good friends."

"That's nice. It's good to have a friend."

"Mrs Dale, Bevan is my partner. Not just in the business, he's my life-partner, my boyfriend."

"Yes," she smiled. "I figured that. I might be old, Tyler, but I'm not completely green. I had a son who was gay."

"You had a son?"

"He died a long time ago. He was about the age that you are now."

"Sixteen? That's awful. Sorry, Mrs Dale."

"Yes, I'm sorry too. My poor boy!"

They talked for a while. Mrs Dale told him that she'd lived in Okarito all of her life, she went to school with his grandparents! But she'd never been out on the lagoon. Tyler told her to come down to the wharf anytime and they'd arrange for her to join one of the guided trips.

She couldn't afford that – she didn't have to, there was no charge for his friends.

He left in a hurry, he had to get back because Cassie was taking time off to have her hair done. ("She wants to see if blondes really do have more fun.") Mrs Dale thanked him, yet again, and he said, "No worries. 'Bye, Mrs Dale and do come down and take a trip out, won't you?"

"I'd love to. Thank you, Tyler. Goodbye now."

She stood and watched him run off into the rain with his big coat flapping around him. Then she had another cup of tea and a long think.

The weather cleared later in the day and there was a glorious sunset which augured well for tomorrow. What a shame she hadn't waited one more day to do her shopping.

She was going out to the mailbox to collect the junk-mail, (there was never anything else, apart from the dreaded bills), and she almost stumbled over a supermarket bag on her front doorstep.

'What is this doing here?' She picked it up, looked inside and started crying again.

Back inside, she unloaded it on to the kitchen table - 2 loaves of bread, one sandwich-sliced and one toast-sliced, 2 bottles of sarsaparilla cordial, a pottle of margarine, one dozen eggs and a boxed carving knife!

There was no note or anything, but she knew who'd done this – that lovely boy! That lovely surprise more than made up for her bad morning. Bless him.

She sat down and looked at her gifts, smiled and nodded. She had already decided, but this confirmed that what she was going to do was the right thing.

Next day, after breakfast – two(!) eggs on toast – she cleaned-up, put on her still-damp coat, (the heater had been turned off as soon as Tyler left yesterday), and put her late husband's papers in his old briefcase. She left the flat, locking the door, and walked up to the old wharf area, carefully carrying the briefcase in front of her in case that horrible man was around again.

He wasn't, or at least she didn't see him, and she got there without incident. There was no-one around. Weren't they working? It wasn't a holiday, was it? No, of course they were working, they had signs out by the road.

She walked up on to the wharf and saw a boat coming down the river, so that was where they were. She sat down on the seat to wait.

A tall, thin girl came running up and stopped in front of her. "Hi!" she said. "I know my note on the door said, 'Back in Five', but I was held up at the bank. They're as slow as a wet week in there. How can we help you?"

"Hello, Dear. I just want a word with Tyler. Is he around?"

The girl, who must be Cassie, looked out at the water. "He soon will be. That's him, coming down there in the Lady."

"The Lady? Oh, the boat. I'll just wait here."

"Come inside if you like. It's warmer in there."

"Thank you, but no. I'm quite happy here. This is nice."

"Nice? Yeah it is. Way better than yesterday, that was foul."

"It certainly was, but some of it was good."

"I must've missed that part. Okay, I'd better go and open up. Catch you later."

"Goodbye, Dear."

The boat came in and turned and nosed into the bank so the people on board could walk off. Tyler came out last, his hands were full of lifejackets. He smiled when he saw her there and waggled his fingers. "Hey, Mrs Dale!"

"Hello, Tyler," she smiled back.

He came up on to the wharf and said, "Just got to drop these inside. Why don't you come on in? The Lady will be going out again in another hour or so."

She followed him inside. The old wooden shed had a big ranch-slider door and windows on the front wall.There was a plywood-lined office and waiting room inside.

Tyler stopped and said, "The lunch-room is through at the end there. Have a seat and I'll hang these up and be with you in a minute. Hey, Cassie – still having blonde fun are you?"

The girl behind the counter said, "Shut up, Tyler." (And he was her employer!).

Mrs Dale sat and waited in the lunchroom. There was a nice view from the window in there too. Tyler came in and switched-on the electric kettle.

"I'm hanging out for a coffee. I've talked myself dry. Would you like one, or would you rather have tea? I think there's tea-bags in here somewhere."

"Thanks, Tyler. A coffee would be nice – milk and one sugar."

"Comin right up. The Lady's due out again at 10am, there's bookings for two groups of six. She seats 20, so there'll be plenty of room for you."

"I didn't actually come for a ride on your boat today."

"Oh? Something else we can help you with?"

"Yes, there is." She took the papers out of the briefcase and took a deep breath. "Tyler, I am sick of being poor. I'm tired of scrimping and saving and worrying about every cent. I'm old and tired and I want to be well-off for once in my life."

"Don't we all?" he grinned.

"I'm serious, Tyler. Very serious.I want to be rich and I want you to help me get there?"

"Me? But what can I do? Money seems to go out the door as fast as it comes in around here."

"Sit down, Tyler. Sit down and listen because I want to tell you a story."

"A story? Are you a writer, Mrs Dale?"

"No, that's not it. I did have aspirations once, but that was many years ago. Many people think they can write, not many are well-paid for it."

"What then?"

"Shush and I'll tell you. Do you know anything about gold-mining?"

"Absolutely nothing."

"I'll start at the very beginning then."

"Right. I'll get these drinks, and then you can start."

"Tyler!" she sighed. "I'm talking a lot of money here – a LOT of money."

"A dollar is a lot when you've got none to spare." He sat down and passed her drink across the table.

"Thank you. Now then, you know that there was a lot of gold-mining done around here in the early days?"

"So they tell me. That's why the town started. It was a rich field for a few years but it was soon worked-out. A few stayed on, scratching a living, but there's been no gold found for a long time."

"Yes and no. That is not quite right."

"Not quite?"

"No. The gold won around here was not reef-gold, it was semi-alluvial, dug from solidified black-sand deposits on uplifted beaches.

"Uplifted beaches?"

"The whole country was under the sea once. It is still rising up a few millimeters per year and areas miles away from the sea today were once beaches – beaches rich in gold."

"Which has all been recovered."

"Almost all. The point is that the gold did not originate on the beaches, first it would have been in one quartz reef which eroded over time."

"So you're saying that there is a goldreef around here that has never been found?"

"Almost, yes. The old miners knew that it must've been out there and when the easy gold ran out, they searched high and low but they never found it."

"Mrs Dale," Tyler was looking sceptical now. "Are you saying that you've found what no-one else could?"

"No, of course not. I wouldn't know where to start looking."

"What then?"

"My husband was not originally from Okarito. He first came here as a young man when he was appointed to a teaching position at the school. We met, were married, had a family and lost them and he spent his whole career here, finishing-up as Deputy-Principal in the school.

He was always very taken with the romance of the area's golden history and he became obssessed with the mystery of the missing mother-lode. That became his life's work and he spent many, many hours researching geology and searching for the lost reef.

In later years his health was not good, but he never gave up and he found what he was looking for."

"He found the reef?" She had Tyler's total attention now.

"He did indeed, but by then it was too late for him and he died soon after he retired. Before he did, he bought the land, tied-up all the legalities with mineral-rights and everything, and he left the lot to me.

The long and the short of it is, I am sitting on a potentially very rich goldmine here, and I have not got the the money or the energy to develop it."

"That's too bad, Mrs Dale. Couldn't you hire someone to do it for you? You wouldn't have to pay money up-front – just offer some shares, about 5 or 10 per cent. You should easily raise a loan to get it started."

"See now, this is exactly why I have come to you. You are a good person and you're also an entrepeneur. I like the way you think. Tyler, I want to be rich and I want you to do it for me."

"Me?"

"Yes, you. I can't think of anyone better. A sample of the reef has been assayed and it is incredibly rich – about 3 ounces per ton, which is far more than usual. This could be a very rich mine.

Jack, my husband, registered this company – South-West Mining Limited. So, what we will do is, when you can afford it, you will give me eighty dollars and that will buy you 80% of the company. I will keep the other 20% and be the 'sleeping partner' as it were.

You develop the mine, sell the gold , get very rich and make me rich too. Okay?"

"Okay? Eighty per-cent? No, Mrs Dale that is not okay! Not at all."

"No? Do you want more?"

"I don't want more – eighty per-cent is far too much! What you have is really valuable and you can't just give it away."

"I am not giving it away. You have to pay me Eighty dollars and that will make it all legal and above board."

"But it's too much."

"It is not too much. I have thought about this and it is a fair amount. It is no use to me as it is. I don't have the wherewithal to develop it – you do.

Left to me, it will sit there forever and I'll finish-up in a pauper's grave."

"But if it's as good as you say, you could sell it for millions, maybe."

"I don't want to sell it to a faceless big business. I want you to have it and I know you'll make good use of it."

"Good use?"

"Yes. You don't waste what you've got and I know you'd like to see the town go ahead. I would like that too and I think the best way to do it is to put the money in your hands."

"But Mrs Dale, I don't know anything about mining – nothing at all!"

"So find out. You're a bright boy and you can do it. You don't have to dig it all yourself you know. Find some people with experience, give them the tools and hire them to do it."

"Well, umm . . I'm running out of excuses."

"Good! Now stop thinking and sign here. You can give me the money when you've got it."

"Eighty dollars is nothing!"

"To you maybe. The amount is not important, it's just to make the sale of shares legal."

He signed on the line and grinned. "I guess we're in business. I'll get some money from the bank and bring it around later."

"Whenever suits you, there is no hurry. Thank you, Tyler."

"Thank you, Mrs Dale – thanks a million. Do you want to come for a ride on the Lady now?"

"Yes, why not. Let's make this day special."

"I think it already is!"

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